NJ Dining: Daryl

Daryl Restaurant
302 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ. 08901
(732) 253 7780

Web Site: http://www.darylwinebar.com

Local New Jersey food blogger Melody Kettle recently did a great write up of all of the restaurants of Zod Arifai, the Albanian-born rock n’ roller turned rogue self-taught chef whose establishments have been getting tons of critical acclaim.

In Late February I was invited with a group of other food writers/bloggers to dine at Daryl, the wine bar in New Brunswick where Zod has taken over as Executive Chef.

I have dined in the past at Zod’s other restaurant, Blu in Montclair. Many of my peers are of the opinion that it is one of the most creative and best fine dining establishments in all of Northern New Jersey.

While I agree that the quality and creativity is definitely there, as is Zod’s technical skill, Blu just isn’t my speed. I think there’s just too much going on with the food, as if the place is Zod’s mad scientist laboratory.

I’ve had some major and heated arguments with folks about the place, and I’ve been accused of being closed minded.

While I do enjoy modern cuisine interpretations, ranging from the deconstructivist to molecular gastronomy, I personally tend to prefer cuisine that is more straightforward and which isn’t trying to break the light speed barrier or re-invent the wheel.

Blu is more of the second type, so stylistically it doesn’t tend to resonate with me as well. This is more of a personal preference thing, and not a reflection of the quality of the restaurant.

So I was actually relieved when I found Daryl to be more down to earth in concept — small plates, pastas, meat and fish to compliment the restaurant’s wine list and beverage program. And it also is conveniently located very close to the State Theatre, so if you are going to see a show there, it’s an ideal dining venue.

Daryl’s main dining room.

Daryl is a modern, but earthy restaurant which will please foodies and wine enthusiasts alike. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

The first thing you notice when you walk into the restaurant is the wine selection and the special computerized dispensers. There are many wines by the glass to choose from and the staff is extremely well-educated about the selections and can help you pair flights to go with whatever dishes on the menu suit your fancy.

Wine dispenser unit in the restaurant’s foyer.

Table setting. The night was cold and rainy, but the restaurant interior had a nice earthy and warm feeling that was a great distraction from the lousy weather.

Executive Chef Zod Arifai. He really does like the rock star type, doesn’t he?

A flight of two ounce pours of different red varietals that I wanted to try with the pastas I had decided to order that evening. I think it’s great that you can get small pours, because although I wanted to sample about eight different wines that evening, I didn’t want to get too tanked either as it was a long drive back from New Brunswick to Northeast Bergen County.

Traditional Caesar Salad. With Anchovies prominently featured.

A very pretty beet salad in a simple vinaigrette with walnuts and balls of goat cheese.

Small plate of creamy polenta with wild mushrooms and hazelnuts. Again a simple dish, but prepared perfectly.

Tuna Tartare with Avocado and Spicy Ginger Sauce. A nice Asian play on a European classic.

A very playful Carpaccio with peppery baby arugula, Porcini mushrooms and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

These were chicken liver raviolis in a porcini mushroom sauce.

Duck Meatballs small plate

This is a classic Bolognese which went great with the tannic Pinot Noirs and other reds I sampled.

Seared Tuna entree with Shiitake Mushrooms.

Fettuccine with Beef Short Ribs, Caramelized Onions and Gorgonzola. I had a really hard time deciding which of the two pastas I ordered I liked better, this one or the classic Bolognese. Both were exceptional, and were good matches with the Pinot Noir, Barbaresco and  Sangiovese varietals.

Mahi Mahi with Pineapple, Jalapeno, Black Beans and Baby Bok Choy. Kind of a Pacific Rim/Latino fusion dish. I didn’t order this one but it looked gorgeous.

If you’re bent on classic steak and potatoes with your wine selections, Daryl has that too.

Classic Chocolate cake, with house-made made Ice Cream.

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